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A Note of Thanks to our Public Servants

Dear Public Servants of Singapore,

I have had the privilege of working with many of you during my time in the government, and I consider many of you friends. I know that helping the country navigate through Covid-19 has been some of the most back-breaking work anyone could have ever undertaken in their careers. Some of you had to consider a multitude of factors, opinions and possible impact on affected people as you try to draft new legislation to protect our most vulnerable; while others worked on ramping up Covid-testing facilities, making sure the process is dependable and accurate at scale. These are just two of the millions of different duties undertaken by our public service, and you have been working so hard, above and beyond a reasonable call to duty.

I found it really hard to read the announcement that civil servants would receive no bonus this year. I understand the policy and its intent: that civil servants have their pay tied to the economic performance of the nation, and in this time where many Singaporeans suffer economic losses, it is not a time to financially reward civil servants.

But I just wanted to say thanks. It’s not worth much, I know. It won’t put your child through school, or pay for your groceries. Thank you for working so diligently to keep us safe. That we have vegetables and eggs in the supermarket; or good internet access for our work calls; or adequate financial support to keep many small businesses alive. I’m not taking any of these for granted. None of us should. It is the result of the hard work our public servants have put in.

The list goes on and on: whether in healthcare where our sick are taken care of, or how our educators have had to pivot almost immediately to teach online, this generation of public servants have proven, and continue to prove that excellence is the hallmark of Singapore’s public service.

As a Singaporean son, husband and father, thank you so much for all that you do.

Why it took me so long to say BLM

Black lives matter. There. That’s my first time typing it out. I didn’t want it to be a trite expression to me where I was just echoing social media sentiment. I wanted to give it deliberate thought.

I’m sitting here in Singapore, far from the movement’s epicenter, watching in horror as the fear of coronavirus gave way to a total breakdown in society over in the States. Mind you, we have our own baggage and should never take the unity of the people for granted. A careless word could be the flint that lights a fire fueled by undercurrents that have been building up over time, and fanned by the winds of emotion.

It took me so long to type out “Black lives matter” because it an obvious thing that didn’t need stating. I was also a little fixated on the negative space around the phrase. Do other lives not matter?

After some reflection I realised my error in attributing meaning to the words that aren’t said, instead of focusing on what is being said. Saying “black lives matter” does mean that other lives do not matter, or that black lives were somehow more valuable than other lives. In the same way, saying an apple is red doesns’t make an orange any less orange.

Saying “black lives matter” is important, because in today’s current climate, this truth isn’t self-evident. It isn’t self-evident in the unequal treatment of black people in America and many parts of the world. This inequality has been so exacerbated that we are fighting for an equal right to live. It breaks my heart that we have come to this.

It is easy, being so far away, to just be an observer and pass judgement, but prejudice and bigotry towards people unlike us is a sin that grips every human heart. The need for a come-to-Jesus moment to confess and confront our own biases is so necessary. The moment should be now, whether you are in Atlanta or in Asia. No one should take the life of another, and definitely not this callously.

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